Chetwynd Council getting new district offices

Liz Brown, Chetwynd Echo 

Mayor Nicholas perusing the plans. Liz Brown photo.
CHETWYND – After nearly 50 years of running Chetwynd out of a trailer, the District has plans to build a new $4 million municipal office.
The two-and-half year project will commence in summer of 2013 and completed by fall 2014, with landscaping completed in spring 2015.
Mayor Merlin Nichols discussed plans for the new district office this week.  He said the need for a new building simply comes down to 50 years of the council working out of ATCO trailers. “It’s outlived its lease. It needs too many repairs,” said Nichols. Built in 1960, an ATCO trailer was added to the structure in 1986 to host Council Chambers and Engineering Offices.
The current building has struggled to maintain building code standards and in the spring the plans are to demolish the back portion of the building, leaving the front portion vacant.  The new site and building will provide better air quality, more storage space and enough offices for staff.
“This will allow all the district records to be kept on one site instead of stored here and everywhere else. It’s not an appropriate way to do business,” said Nichols.
The new building will use LEAD compatible energy and environment efficiency standards.  BC Hydro will install the lighting and heating.  The new site is just west of the current council office and the architect company Field, Field & Field, based in Grande Prairie, presented concept drawings. The final choice came down to aesthetics, said Nichols.
“Appearance was the deciding factor. Essential components are the same here and here.”
The new building will have two floors, as well as a basement and cover about 5000 square feet.  And of course the exterior will provide a garden of wooden sculptures. “As the design progresses, some of these things may have to be adjusted down to keep it within an acceptable budget.”
The District estimates the project costing about $4-million. They are short $2-million currently.
“There’s $2-million now – $2.5-million this summer…the construction period itself is about two and a half years so by the time we’re getting closer to the end, the money will be there.” The majority of the funds have come from an annual Fair Share grant and the District has set a portion of the roughly $2-million grant aside for a new building for the last three years.
For now the concept drawings are being reviewed and construction drawings should be ready before spring. “So when the architects have come up with their final design that meets the budget restrictions then it’s a matter of putting it out to tender and finding the right contractor to do it and there are contractors in the area who are quite capable of putting it together.”
With the District staff moving offsite, there is talk of what will happen with the current building.  One thought the District is considering is moving the chamber and tourism office into the front of the District building.   Nichols said they are weighing the options, but acknowledges with the Chamber trailer sitting on highway property, the Chamber could use a new location.
“One of the things we’re thinking is what could it be, how could it be used – possibly the chamber offices and the tourist information…I think probably highways would be just as happy to see the building gone…”
However Nichols wants to ensure the building gets a facelift and is visible from the highway for tourists.   He also doesn’t want to part with the current decorations by the Chamber trailer. “I’d still like to see the carvings and the flowers left where they are. That’s beautiful down there. I want to see that left there.”
Nichols said the new District offices would not only benefit staff, the community at large.
“It’ll certainly give the staff a morale boost.  I’m not saying we don’t have good morale but it will be certainly good for the staff and what ‘s good for the staff is got to be good for the community I think.  I think it’ll give the whole community a morale boost as well.”